Trap Evaded: Bulls 85, Hornets 77

No Chris Paul.

No Trevor Ariza.

A struggling team that had lost 10 of its last 15 games and was playing the second night of back-to-back road games at the tail end of a five-game road trip without its All-World point guard.

Meanwhile, the Bulls were finally home after their own five-game road trip in which they went 4-1 and were coming off an emotional and hard-fought win in Miami the night before.

If there was an online NBA Dictionary, and the term “Trap Game” was in it, last night’s blech-fest against the Hornets would be an embedded video included in that entry.

Well, okay, not really. After all, the Bulls evaded the trap Indiana Jones-style. Only instead of finding the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail, they earned their 44th win of the year. It was also their ninth straight win at home, which is the team’s longest streak since a 10-game run during the 1997-98 season.

You know. Jordan’s last year.

The Bulls didn’t play well on offense — shooting 38.3 percent from the field and missing 16 of their 20 three-point attempts — but they played hard. As usual, Derrick Rose led the way with a game-high 24 points. He also had almost as many assists (9) as the Hornets (10). Carlos Boozer (19 points, 8-for-14, 9 rebounds) had his best game in a while and Joakim Noah ripped down a game-high 13 rebounds.

And, as has been the case all season long, when they can’t make shots, they adapt by forcing their opponent to miss even more shots. To wit: The Hornets shot 36.3 percent as a team and didn’t score a single point over the final three minutes and 18 seconds.

Did the Bulls let down a little? Of course they did.

Said Joakim Noah: “When you play in a game like we did [Sunday] against Miami, it’s normal, it’s human nature, to have a letdown. But I think we realized that. We really stayed focused, and even in the last 3:15 of the game, that’s what Coach was emphasizing. Just staying focused on the moment, understanding what we needed to do to win this game.”

Added Luol Deng: “It’s good to look back at the game and see that we didn’t shoot that well and we’re still able to win the game. That says a lot about our defense. It was a tough road trip; not making any excuses, but playing a team like Orlando in a TV game, and then playing early in Miami, it was a tough game. But we’ve got guys in this locker room that know how to win. Even when we’re struggling we just find ways to win.”

If this Bulls team has shown any weaknesses this season, it’s not bringing everything to the table against lesser teams. And if they end up missing out on the first or second seed in the Eastern Conference, they may end up regretting their collection of losses against teams they should have beaten (Bobcats, Clippers, Nets, Sixers, Raptors, Warriors).

On the flip side, it’s also important to win gut check games. This was one of them. And the Bulls were able to turn on their defense at the end and pull it out.

And, in case you missed it, the Bulls now rank second (to the Lakers) in both Marc Stein’s Power Rankings and John Hollinger’s Power Rankings. What’s more, as TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott tweeted, Hollinger’s Playoff Odds currently give the Bulls the best chance of winning this year’s NBA title.

The Bulls have been fighting for respect all season. They didn’t get it by having an MVP candidate or surviving injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. They’ve gotten it — they’ve finally gotten it — by winning. It’s all about the winning.

But it’s not enough. Not for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

Said Deng: “Until we win it all, even when we win it all, I don’t know if Coach is going to say where we’re at [is good]. That’s the best thing about Coach, really. I think that [attitude] has helped us a lot. It’s helped Derrick a lot, even playing great every night, and still coming in and playing hard, and all of us in the locker room. Coach is really always pushing us and that’s something that’s going to be with us for a long time.”

Hopefully through June. This year. And next year. And the year after that.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

16 Responses to Trap Evaded: Bulls 85, Hornets 77

    Enigmatik March 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    These guys get it…that one game at a time mentality is going to take them far. And with a strong foundation of defense, this team can do great things in the post season.

    I know as fans sometimes we go off the deep end when our team loses (trust me, I was almost inconsolable after that Hawks loss…but not to the point of tears like some people we know). But it’s great to see the focus that these guys have.

    We’ve got a special team here.

    Jake in Minnie March 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    About Hollinger’s odds. The Finals chance is probably best reflected in current ranking actual value.

    So, since the Spurs, Lakers and Bulls are in the lead group of scores,(about 107pts and 1.5 pts (a wide margin) ahead of the heat) they initially have the best odds, but because the Spurs and Lakers are in the same conference, both of their odds take a hit, leaving the Bulls with the best odds to win right now…according to Hollinger.

  3. Inception March 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    home court is crucial in the East, so the best odds will stay with the #1 team (BOS)

  4. Jimmy March 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    My favorite part of this read was hearing Deng and Noah’s post-commentary. Both credit “Coach” for the success, due to his mentality he has and his guidance. You got to love when a team backs the coach during an interview.

    Mr Bull March 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Omer looks like Linguine from Ratatouille
    Belinelli looks like the rat from Ratatouille

    Tony C. March 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Mr Bull –

    I’d have to agree. And there may be a pattern developing, as Boozer’s defense has the texture of ratatouille…

  7. letsgobulls_24 March 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    i’m loving the ratatouille references bc they’re dead on LOL

    inkybreath March 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    The 10 road games we have left:

    Charlotte, New Jersey, Indiana, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando, New York.

    I am going for an 8 – 2 record, leaving us at 25-16.

    Homer-colored glasses?

    inkybreath March 8, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    Also, Boston has about as weak a schedule as we do to finish the season.

    I don’t really see us grabbing the #1 position.

    Unless they get super-invigorated, I don’t see Miami overtaking us, either. They have a heavy-hitter schedule to finish (at least, in comparison).

  10. Luvabull March 9, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    Why do I get the feeling that the Heat are stinking it up right now but come playoffs, they are going to get it all together and blow by everybody!

    Just being a pesimistic Bulls fan. :)

  11. Luvabull March 9, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    If I have to sum up on one sentance:

    The Bulls have far surpassed my expectations this season to date.

    I am actually enjoying watching Deng and Asik and Brewer play. If he continues his upward trek as he has post All-Star Game, Thomas maybe riding the pine in the playoffs. Don’t know where Do-All-Deng finally discovered agressiveness, but I sure hope he keeps it up.

    Bulls fans, don’t look past Sixers. They are quietly becoming a very good team.

  12. Inception March 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    @Luvabull – you’re not necessarily being a pessimist…the notion that MIA can pull things together by playoff time is not far-fetched…it’s a team that should be worried about…my reasons…

    1. MIA has two superstars with playoff/championship experience
    2. Bench play becomes a tad bit less critical, as the starter’s minutes will naturally increase.
    3. Essentially, they’ll have nothing to lose come playoff time, since every expert/critic will be counting them out….big 180 from the start of the season, right?

    this CHI team has the right mentality though, so i’m sure they will not take MIA lightly if they happen to meet in the playoffs….it would be a war for sure….forget about another sweep.

  13. Luke March 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Inception, I disagree. Luvabull is being pessimistic. Yes, the heat can turn it around. But turn it around and play how they did during their large win streaks? What, when they were dominating bad teams and losing to the good teams? This team has not shown once all season that it can consistently beat good teams. The heat have had the same problem all season long and will continue to have the same problem- no supporting cast for Wade/James. As long as the bulls dont blow a bunch of games they should win, we’re solid at the 2 spot.

    Come playoff time, the heat are going to struggle to find a way to make up for their lack of an inside presence, as well as find support from the bench. Wade and James are already up in their minutes- they both played over 40 in the portland loss. In a 7 game series, they will be worn down and miami will fall.

    Bulls get the 2 seed, play miami in the second round, with home court advantage, then play Boston in the ECF

  14. Inception March 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    @Luke, teams have gone on to succeed in the playoffs when playing like crap vs. the better teams, but i do agree with you, the lack of an inside presence might be their ultimate downfall….i’m just not one to count them out in the 2nd round just yet.

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  1. The Point Forward » Posts Court Vision: The latest around the league « - March 8, 2011

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